Mather VA Medical Center – Mather, California

Tuesday May 14th, Auburn, CA (Day One) Displays in Right Frame

Today we’re riding as a tribute to Army 1st Lt. Joshua C. Hurley. Lieutenant Hurley was 24 when he died 11-1-2003 as a result of an IED near Mosul Iraq. Hurley was from Clifton Forge, VA, assigned to the 326th Engineer Battalion, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). Hurley joined the army in 2001 after graduating from Virginia Military Institute. His sister said the Institute was the only school he ever wanted to attend, showing he had his sights set on a military career from an early age. Killed with him that day was SPC. Maurice Johnson, 21, from Levittown Penn. Hurley was survived by his Wife—also a lieutenant with the 101st Airborne in Iraq, his parents, and a sister.

Day 1: 2024 NVAR Tuesday May 14,

Auburn CA: State Coordinator: Wayne Worden

Today began with the promise of perfect weather. As I sit here now, just before dinner, the high was 82, with a refreshing 8 mph breeze. We rode to Bowman School, attracting a lot of attention as our 30+ bikes traveled just under the speed limit. We gathered in the school auditorium as the kids began to arrive.

Wayne Worden, California State Coordinator, awarded a certificate to the principal, the Honor Guard from the American Legion, and Larry LaVerne who sang the National Anthem at the flag raising. Then Jerry Conner spoke for a few minutes, introducing Mike Rinowski. Mike talked about patriotism, how he experienced the world from the perspective of visiting several other countries, and showed the students a Freedom Medal. Next Libby Worden addressed the kids leaving them with a challenge to be Aware of why we celebrate Memorial Day, to Remember those died defending freedom, and to be Grateful for their freedoms.

Fred Young then talked about the memorial sights we visit and about the ceremony we do at them. He challenged the kids to: Remember, Honor, and Respect all veterans. Last, but not least, Don “Quacker” Jacobs spoke. (The kids loved the sound effects coming from some of the riders as he walked to the microphone.) Quacker recapped the day with his personal experience of the ride—how so many from Vietnam were not welcomed home, but that the comradery of the ride across the country is great fellowship with riders and those we meet, and makes up for what they missed when they returned.

After the Honor Guard raised the flag and Larry sang the National Anthem, we had an opportunity to talk with the kids. Jeff “The Mayor” Gowing noticed a boy about 9 or 10 years old who was crying. He asked the boy if he was okay. The boy said his grandfather was killed in Vietnam, “he was blown up.” The Mayor reached into his pocket, pulled out his challenge coin, and gave it to him as a remembrance of his grandfather. With wet eyes he accepted the coin, “Thank you, sir.”

We look forward to our school parking lot drive-thru as we ride out of town in the morning; our last goodbye before riding up into the Sierra Nevada Mountains and into Nevada.

This afternoon we rode to Mather Veterans Medical Center south of Sacramento. We broke into groups and sought out veterans. Some were patients picking up prescriptions, others were in-patients, and still others were workers or volunteers at the Center. We handed out pins, talked about our ride to DC, and generally encouraged them.

Kathy, a volunteer with the hospital, took a few of us up to the rooms of two in-patients in a restricted area that had been identified to receive a lap quilt from the Colfax, CA, Professional Volunteers. Phillip Kimbal, retired Air Force, and Jerry Wlatens, Army 1st Cav. are pictured in the gallery holding their quilts. Both were thrilled to get them and thanked us for visiting.

Dinner was held at Sweet Peas Restaurant. They are only open for dinner one night a year for the NVAR. This year there were three pre-teen volunteers who wanted to help take our orders and serve our meals. Two of them were students that attended the program at Bowman School this morning. When the two boys were asked which rider was Quacker, they both pointed directly at Don. We all got a good laugh.

Mary Weeks, one of the Professional Volunteers who made the 26 quilts, was able to join us for dinner and accept the certificates of appreciation. We displayed the quilts and the group gave Mary a rousing applause in thanks for all the work they put into these beautiful quilts. An additional two quilts from the Professional Volunteers will be raffled along with a beautiful vintage-patterned quilt donated by the sister of a rider. So we will have three quilts that will be raffled off at the end of the ride.

Before leaving for the evening, Pennley, an 8 or 9 year old came up to two of us and gave us good luck charms. She said she would be thinking of us as we ride. I thanked her, put the charm in my vest pocket, and told her I would carry it all the way to DC.

This is only Day 1. Stay tuned for more touching stories and great pics as we continue across the US.

Thank a veteran today,

Thank You – Libby Worden – Sitrep Admin

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